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Charlotte healthcare workers protest vaccine mandate

Novant and Atrium Health are requiring all employees to get the COVID-19 shot. If they don't - they could be fired.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Hundreds of Charlotte healthcare workers protested vaccine requirements at their job.

Novant and Atrium Health are requiring all employees to get the COVID-19 shot. If they don't - they could be fired.

Employees at both Atrium Health and Novant Health were sent emails in July notifying them of the decision. While health care workers were among the first to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, neither Atrium Health nor Novant Health had been previously requiring their employees to be vaccinated.

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Novant's full statement follows:

"Since the COVID-19 vaccine first arrived at Novant Health, we have been working diligently to overcome vaccine hesitancy among our team members. These efforts include holding weekly forums to address individual concerns and common misconceptions, making the vaccine convenient and accessible, and providing continuous updates on the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.

We appreciate and acknowledge the tens of thousands of team members who eagerly received the vaccine. Unfortunately, the reality is that vaccination rates remain stagnant across the country, including at Novant Health.  

We agree with the North Carolina Healthcare Association, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and many other health care systems in the region that a mandatory vaccine program is in the best interest of public health. Simply put, it is essential to ensure the safety of our patients, team members and communities. Therefore, we are requiring that all Novant Health team members be fully vaccinated by Sept. 15, 2021.  

While our hope is for every team member to accept the vaccine on their own, a mandatory vaccination program will ensure that Novant Health’s patients and visitors, as well as our team members, have better protection against COVID-19 regardless of where they are in our health system. This disease is preventable thanks to a safe and effective vaccine, and we are committed to doing everything we can to bring an end to this pandemic."

In a follow-up statement regarding employees who refuse the vaccine, Novant offered this response:

"The vaccination program is required to protect patients from the spread of illness that may occur through transmission from a healthcare worker. If a Novant Health team member does not comply by the deadline, their access will be suspended until their vaccination status is fully compliant. If they remain non-compliant it may lead to termination."

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Atrium Health also confirmed more all of the 70,000+ employees across its 40 hospitals and 1,450 care locations will need the vaccine by Oct. 31. Their full statement follows:

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, Atrium Health has earned the trust of our patients and the communities we are privileged to serve for our COVID-Safe practices, designed to maximize patient safety and limit their potential exposure to the virus. With the new Delta variant being far more potent than the original virus, we view it as essential that each of our teammates receive their vaccination to protect themselves, their families and the people in their care.

These new variants are contributing to a 200% increase in hospitalizations – and, among our patients, 99% of those hospitalized in recent weeks have been those who are unvaccinated. This further illustrates the effectiveness of the vaccine.

We have started communicating to all of our teammates (including remote workers, physicians, medical residents, faculty, fellows, trainees, contractors, students/visiting students, members of the medical staff, temporary workers and volunteer staff) that they must be fully vaccinated or have an approved medical or religious exemption. By making the vaccine mandatory for our teammates, Atrium Health, including Wake Forest Baptist Health and Atrium Health Navicent, and along with multiple other health systems across the region, are taking reasonable steps to make sure that our teammates – many of whom remain on the frontlines, interacting directly with people who have COVID – are protected and available to care for members of the community as we deal with the next phases of the pandemic.

We view this vaccine no differently than our requirement for our teammates to get an annual flu shot, as well as be vaccinated for measles, chicken pox and other infectious diseases. The COVID-19 vaccine is essential to protect the health of our teammates and the communities we serve. We believe it is vital that we maintain the safest possible care environment for our patients and this is a critical component of our ability to remain COVID-Safe in the face of new variants impacting our region."

Atrium also provided a response to follow up questions regarding employees who deny the vaccine, or who have a medical or religious exemption:

"All teammates must complete their COVID-19 vaccine series or have an approved medical or religious exemption by Sunday, October 31, 2021. Teammates who do not follow this policy will receive counseling for failing to receive required vaccinations. This could result in consequences up to and including end of employment. We value our teammates who have medical or religious reasons for not receiving the vaccine and will evaluate these requests through a multidisciplinary committee."

The COVID-19 vaccine has been proven safe and effective by the FDA.

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